Urgent Call for Action: Water Crisis in Gaza Requires Immediate Ceasefire and Humanitarian Aid

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The freshwater situation in Gaza is alarming. Tactics Institute urges Israel to cease its aggression in Gaza with immediate effect. Gaza is one of the most densely populated areas on earth, and securing access to clean water has been a significant issue. Restricted access to clean water and sanitation amid Israel’s severe bombardment poses a grave risk to children in Gaza. Even before the war started, Gaza had virtually no drinkable water. The population depended on a polluted and rapidly draining aquifer and a limited number of desalination works that fell far short of fulfilling local needs. This has led to the troubling statistic that 97% of Gaza’s water is inappropriate for human consumption.

On 7 October 2023, Hamas undertook an unprecedented ‘‘Operation Al-Aqsa Flood’’ against Israel from Gaza. Following the attack, Israel announced war on Hamas and started Operation Swords of Iron to clear out hostile forces from Gaza. It also declared to cut off all supplies to Gaza and restarted a series of air raids and ground military operations in Gaza. With the recent conflict and the subsequent decrease in electricity and freshwater supplies from Israel, the water supply crisis has deepened, revealing that 90% of the population lacked direct access to clean and safe drinking water. Most people drink locally sourced water. Only about 10% of Gaza’s water supply comes from Israel, but it must be ministered to remove salt and contamination. 

Israel commands and restricts the consumables and hardware necessary, including those needed to support, repair, and improve the water and sewage systems, such as cement and iron. The deficiency of fuel, electricity, and other devices needed to filter the water and power for water distribution worsened the matter. The scarcity of clean water has far-reaching and devastating effects and elevates the risk of waterborne diseases, including cholera, magnifies poor hygiene conditions in overcrowded makeshift shelters, and makes a fertile ground for rapid disease transmission.

Tactics Institute strongly urges and recommends that parties to the armed conflict negotiate water ceasefire arrangements to allow the safe passage of humanitarian relief personnel, including those concerned with water-related activities. 

International humanitarian law imposes stringent responsibilities on occupying powers concerning the welfare of civilians in the settled territory. Israel, as the occupying power in Gaza, is lawfully bound to ensure the welfare of civilians and must prioritize their entrance to fundamental necessities, including safe drinking water and sanitation facilities (Geneva Convention IV Article 55).

Any intentional actions that impede or limit access to water for the civilian population in Gaza can be regarded as a breach of IHL (Geneva Convention IV Article 56). The act of ‘complete siege’ of Gaza, denying food, electricity, fuel, or water, is possible to cause starvation of civilians. IHL prohibits the starvation of civilians as a form of warfare (CIHL, Rule 53 and Resolution 2573 (2021), para. 4).

Israel must grant rapid and unrestrained passage and access to water-related personnel and consignments used for humanitarian ease operations, including the operation, repairs, or rehabilitation of water systems and related facilities.

Access to secure drinking water is a fundamental human right, and the occupying force must respect human rights and meet the humanitarian conditions of the population in compliance with IHL and the Fourth Geneva Convention. 

Tactics Institute reiterates that Upholding international law is paramount in safeguarding civilians and essential civilian infrastructure, particularly water networks. Tactics Institute avoiding or minimizing damage to civilians and objects, including water sources.

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